For the past year and I half, I have been chasing a sub 31:30 in a 5K race. I have hit this goal numerous times in training but it has eluded me in racing. I figured this race was as good as any to go for it. All of my running as of late… even my longer runs have been at a really decent pace so I felt like I had it in me… if I wanted it enough.
But let’s not get too far ahead…
Race packet pick-up was at the Fleet Feet South Loop location. I love Fleet Feet, I really do but this was the first time (That I can remember) where they did not hold packet pick-up at ALL of their locations. I mean, I have PLENTY of free time now-a-days but I really didn’t want to hike it all the way down to Roosevelt for what was a 5 minute errand…. Especially since the commute time was about 45 minutes. Grrr… Oh well. I took advantage and made a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home.
Luckily packet pick-up was really easy and it did only take about 5 minutes. Love that Fleet Feet is efficient.
The main reason I signed up for this race is because the course took us on MI Ave North of the river… a portion that has never been during a race before. A Chicago first and I was really excited to be able to run where no other race had run before. I was really excited!
I originally wanted to take two rest days before the race so I had fresh legs but life had other plans… and my original plan completely slipped my mind earlier in the week. Instead of taking Friday and Saturday as rest days, I ended up taking Monday and Tuesday as rest days. Not horrible but I won’t lie, I try to stack things in my favor for a race I intend to run for time… this was a check in the “not in my favor column”. Another check was the weather… It was supposed to be 90% humidity at race time. This is also a morning race… I may have mentioned once or twice (note sarcasm) that I hate running in the morning… That is three checks in the not in my favor column…
This started the internal battle… run with water or don’t run with water. I HATE running with water. I obviously can run with water but I do not like it. With the humidity value and this being a morning race, I knew I would need water more than once and the race was only offering one water station on course for the 5K.
I didn’t go into the race with a huge race strategy. I knew about what I needed for a pace but I really didn’t plan anything out ahead of time. Very un-runner like of me…
I wanted a sub 31:30 and I wanted it bad… that was going to have to be enough. I sort of wanted a PR as well… I knew going into the race that I had been running a 5K PR Pace in training… but racing is a whole other ballgame folks… at least it is for me
I may have stated before but I run better without pressure… go figure
As usual, I did not sleep well the night before the race. Par for the course here but at least being a morning person has a ton of advantages from that perspective. I was up and got ready and walked to the train to go downtown. I would normally take the 151 bus but since MI Ave was the race course and the bus goes down MI Ave I opted against that plan… I played a game with a re-routed bus once before… Not the best of ideas…
I arrived super early and took a pic of the start line… This would also be the finish line for the 5K… my finish line…
I waited by the start line for Natali but we ended up meeting near gear check. At this point, I was still wondering if I should run with water or not but ultimately I knew that if I wanted to hit my goal, running with water was my best bet… so I checked my stuff but kept the water with me.
A very odd thing for this race… the Half Marathon and the 5K started together. Don’t normally see this. I knew the course would be mostly wide to start but this just felt like a disaster waiting to happen. It sort of was from a start corral perspective. The corrals were too small to accommodate everyone that was assigned to them. I was in corral C and it wasn’t until Corral A and most of B had emptied that I was able to actually get INTO the corral. I saw a lot of people behind me who were still waiting to get into the corral when the horn went off.
Once I crossed the start line, I started to think about my goal… I really should have a plan. I had been negative splitting my runs recently so I figured that would be a good place to start. Generally I choose to hang back a little at the start of the race. Experience has taught me that things tend to thing out significantly once you get about a quarter mile into a race. I was correct, things started to thin out and it was easier to run past people.
Right before we got to Randolph I noticed I was starting to get thirsty. I checked my watch and saw that I was .63 into the race. This was when I came up with my race strategy…
I would walk after a mile… once the mile split flashes on my watch. I would take a few sips of water and then start running again. I would then walk at the two mile mark. I wasn’t sure when I would walk again but I knew I had a monster hill before the three mile mark so I figured if I was feeling it by this point, I would take one last water break there and then gun it for the finish line.
When the first mile split flashed on my watch I saw around a 10:00 pace and I knew if I could at least maintain that pace, I would have my goal.
We were running on MI Ave now and the streets were nice and wide. I thought about the end of the course and the turn off that I would have when the Half would continue onto the Lakefront trail and I knew I would need to turn onto Randolph kind of wide to be on the correct side of the street for my turn off. So I decided I wanted to hug the turn around point on MI Ave as much as possible so I made my way over to the right hand side of the street.
I was blissfully aware that most of this course was in the shade. This helped me immensely. I know if the sun had been beating down on my back, I would have faded and I likely would have faded fast.
I started to notice that I was passing a LOT of people. Since I don’t always race for time, this is sort of a different race feeling for me. Even when I do race for time, I rarely pass THIS many people this early in the race. I should have counted my kills but it never occurred to me…
Noticing this allowed me to distract myself with thinking about WHY I was passing this many people in a 5K. Then I realized that most of the people I was passing were likely running the half so were probably being a lot more conservative in the early miles. I never really minded that the half and 5K started at the same time… that usually annoys the Half participants or the speedy folk… since I am neither, it wasn’t an issue for me. However, I think this helped me a lot because it gave me a confidence boost.
I am now past the turn around point so I am more than half way done. I do a quick body check and notice that I am feeling really good. I am sweating like crazy and I am definitely warm but overall good.
I hate running and checking my watch a lot… In fact, when I train, I only look at my watch after I stopped it when I am either at a water fountain or waiting at an intersection. But, I glanced down a few times just to make sure my pace was around 10:00 or faster and so far, every time I have glanced down, I have been on pace.
At the two mile mark, my split flashes and I see a 9:40 something… Negative split. I do some quick math and realize that my goal is in the bag as long as I keep moving. But I also realize that a PR is within my grasp… I still walk and take a few sips of water though. I know staying hydrated is key for me.
This course was far more hilly (By Chicago standards) than I ever realized. The hill up on MI Ave after the turn around point definitely hurt me. I slowed considerably but I refused to walk up it… especially since I knew I had a short but massive hill at Randolph.
I hit the turn to go back on Randolph and I was as far right as I could be and I saw that hill and my heart sank. My legs were toast and I felt like I was slowing. I tried to run up it but I knew if I continued, I was done.
Perfect place for a water break…
I walked and sipped water and once I reached the top, I took off. Experience has also taught me that the time you lose by walking a hill (or even a portion of the hill) you can gain by now leaving it all on the hill. By leaving a little left for the finish.
I got that time back on the down hill and turned back onto Columbus. It was a straight away to the finish. I could see it and I could hear the music. I had no idea if I was still on pace for a PR but I knew if I hung on for just another half mile, I would have my sub 31:30
It was a battle. My legs screamed for me to stop. I was hot and thirsty despite my recent water break. The sun was now on me in full force. All I wanted was to stop and walk. But I knew if I did, I was done. I wouldn’t be able to get that time back and I would be throwing my goal away.
So I kept running. I felt like I was slowing down but I didn’t dare look at my watch. Not even when I saw the 3 mile sign. I didn’t want to know the last mile split. If I had slowed, knowing that would break me. Running the last half mile blind was my only hope so I clung to that… I clung to my goal. I really wanted this.
I was able to kick at the finish but for all I knew, that kick was above a 10:00 pace… Right after crossing, I checked my watch for my time…
I SMASHED MY GOAL!!!!
I was beyond thrilled and I got a little choked up… a year and a half chasing a goal and I finally nailed it.
They had wet towels at the finish and I was grateful so I grabbed one along with a bottle of water. I also grabbed a Biscotti… Hey, Race directors, AWESOME post race food!!! It was VERY yummy!!!
I got my bag from gear check and left. Most of the people I knew running were doing the half and as much as I love supporting my friends, I also really wanted actual food.
Best of all… later when I checked my official results, the time was still exact 30:43!!! I was only 1:04 away from a PR… Damn Hills!
This was a great race and finally accomplishing a goal that I have had for over a year and a half feels incredible!!!